7 Sep 2011

The Greatest Books in Christian History

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bobby's World, Books, Discipleship, Spiritual Disciplines

I recently read a list of what purported to be the 100 Greatest Christian books … I was, frankly, surprised by many of the titles that were on the list. Conversely I was shocked by the absence of others. Out of the entire list not a single book dedicated to the “Old Testament” – the ghost of Marcion is still a poltergeist in the Protestant psyche. So I decided to make my own list.

Of course my list will be flawed too. I am sure some will scratch their head over a few selections. Yet what follow here are my selections for the 100 greatest Christian books of all time. I have tried to pick works that have impacted Christian thought and life in important ways … and also works that have helped shape me personally even though I do not always agree completely with a given book. I would recommend to any Christian looking to build a library that these books deserve a place on their shelf (or kindle) … but not only the shelf they deserve to be devoured. I have attempted to avoid what C. S. Lewis termed “chronological snobbery” but there may be more modern titles. I will offer an older title and then newer as my approach. I will offer the title with no justification for it.

1) The Apocrypha

2) J. B. Phillips, Your God is too Small

3) The Apostolic Fathers (ed. Michael Holmes)

4) Jacques Ellul, The Meaning of the City

5) Origen, Hexapola – now this work I do not have and does not exist as known today but if it shows up on Google books let me know

6) Martin Luther King, Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail

7) Justin, First and Second Apology

8) Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

9) Irenaeus, Against Heresies

10) Walther Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crises

11) Tertullian, Apology

12) Albert Schweitzer, The Quest for the Historical Jesus

13) Eusebius, Church History

14) William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

16) Augustine, City of God

17) G. Ernest Wright, God Who Acts

18) Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English People

19) Alexander Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis

20) Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word of God

21) Jerome, The Vulgate

22) Richard Foster, The Celebration of Discipline

23) Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care

24) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

25) Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Song of Songs

26) Jacob Spener, Pia Desideria

27) Thomas a’Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

28) Francis of Assisi, The Writings of Francis of Assisi

29) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

30) Anselm, Cur Deus Homo

31) Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker

32) Erasmus, In Praise of Folly

33) Erasmus, Greek New Testament

34) Martin Luther, Selections from His Writings

35) William Tyndale, English New Testament, Old Testament (Pentateuch and Jonah)

36) William Tyndale, The Obedience of a Christian Man

37) N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God

38) Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

39) Adolf Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East

40) Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle

41) Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms

42) Thomas Campbell, The Declaration and Address

43) John Foxe, Foxes Book of Martyrs

44) John Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament

45) B. F. Westcott & F. J. A. Hort, Greek New Testament

46) Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative

47) Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets (2 Vols). I know Heschel is a Jewish author but his work still ranks among the richest exposition of the biblical text.

48) Abraham J. Heschel, The Sabbath

49) John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

50) John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus

51) Ronald M. Hals, Grace and Faith in the Old Testament (one of the finest little gems of a book I’ve ever read)

52) George Adam Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land

53) Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth

54) William Wilberforce, Real Christianity

55) C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

56) Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All its Worth

57) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

58) The Desert Fathers

59) Martin Hengel, Crucifixion in the Ancient World

60) Gregory of Nyssa, The Life of Moses

61) Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul

62) Lancelot Andrewes, Private Devotions

63) F. F. Bruce, New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

64) Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy

65) Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections

66) John Stott, The Cross of Christ

67) Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life

68) Lewis Smedes, The Art of Forgiving

69) Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission

70) Bonaventure, The Life of St. Francis

71) Ray Bakke, The Urban Christian: Effective Ministry in Today’s Urban World

72) Willard Harley, His Needs, Her Needs

73) Christopher J. H. Wright, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament

74) Marva J. Dawn, A Royal ‘Waste’ of Time: The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the World

75) Terence Fretheim, The Suffering of God: An Old Testament Perspective

76) Gustaf Aulen, Christus Victor

77) F. F. Bruce, History of the Bible in English

78) T. S. Eliot, The Wasteland

79) T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

80) Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

81) John Donne, The Holy Sonnets

82) Michael Green, I Believe in the Holy Spirit

83) N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God

84) John Goldingay, Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel

85) Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages

86) Stanley Grenz, Created for Community

87) Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered

88) C. S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

89) Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith

90) Mark A. Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

91) Robert Wolgemuth, She Calls Me Daddy

92) Helmut Thielicke, The Trouble with the Church: A Call to Renewal

93) Dallas Willard, Divine Conspiracy

94) Leonard Sweet, Postmodern Pilgrims

95) R. T. France, Jesus and the Old Testament

96) Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament

97) Oswald Chambers, The Love of God

98) Richard Lischer, The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present

99) Philip Yancy, Disappointment with God

100) Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger

There you have it. There are many more good books but these ones made the list today. If these are not the 100 Greatest books in Christian history they are at least one hundred books that have molded and shaped my own thinking and walking in profound ways. If you have not read these books I encourage you to get them and devour them. There is no book on this list I would not gladly read again … in fact all (save Origen) have been frequented by me over the years. Some I like because I argue with them so much …

Tolle lege,
Bobby Valentine

13 Responses to “The Greatest Books in Christian History”

  1. mattdabbs Says:

    That is a good list. Thanks for sharing that…

    here is bruce’s book (#63) in pdf

    You could link those that are online for free or link these to an amazon referral account like the other guy who listed the 100 books did 🙂

  2. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Matt good idea. I am trying to provide links but it may take me a little while – i have a busy day. I will have them up later tonight.

  3. kingdomseeking Says:

    It’s nice to see some books on the list that I have read as well as seeing some books on the list I’ve never read (but hope too one day). I just happened to pick up Jacques Ellul’s “The Meaning of the City” a few weeks ago in a NYC used book store.

    Thanks for sharing the list.

    Grace and Peace,

    K. Rex Butts

  4. Wade Tannehill Says:

    What?; No Bultmann or Lucado?
    Seriously though, great list. I cannot wait to read some of these that I have not yet got around to. I think I’ll print the list and check mark some things.

  5. Randall Says:

    Great list! For number 42 you had Thomas Campbell, The Declaration and Address of the Springfield Presbytery. I know this was a typo as I am sure you know Thomas Campbell wrote the Declaration and Address, but not the Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery – which was written by Barton W. Stone and others. Both are short works and they have been published together in one small book by Mission Messenger – perhaps the reason for the typo.

  6. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Randall all I can say on that one was I must have been asleep or something.

  7. GA Tidwell Says:

    I am sure it was an oversight, but I would have included “Sound Doctrine,” that wonderful five volume set by C. R. Nichol and R. L. Whiteside which is available from the Gospel Advocate.

  8. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Greg you know I almost put vol 6 on the list and Adrift didnt make it because of a hanging chad! 🙂

    Congratulations on you being editor now.

    Shalom my friend,
    Bobby V

  9. JD Says:

    Interesting list. You and I probably would not hover at the same shelf at a bookstore but I enjoyed reading it. Interestingly, I just got Muggeridge’s Jesus Rediscovered in the mail this week. Ravi constantly quotes him and I thought I’d give him a read. I will likely add several to my amazon wish list to keep up with them … thanks for sharing!

  10. JD Says:

    Ah, and no Ragamuffin Gospel … tsk … the grace of God pours out of that book.

  11. Patricia Says:

    Amazon has: Origen Hexapla
    This is a reprint of an older book. Don’t know if this is what you are interested in, but thought I would share it.


  12. Brent Says:

    i really appreciate this list. and the work that went behind putting it together.

  13. all you can books Says:

    This is a huge list…I’ve recently finished a top 10 biographies I’ve found on a blog.
    I’m sure that I’m gonna find some interesting titles here that will keep me busy for a while:)

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